October is breast cancer awareness month. Those who haven't been touched in some way by breast cancer may think "what's all the hoopla" about? Well, I am going to share my story that is known by few as to why we need to make a big splash, stink, campaign or whatever you want to call it.
I am one of those that is reaping the benefits of those that have blazed the path before me. Those that helped to create protocols and recommendations and I was blessed to have doctors that educated me and urged me to follow them.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2006 via my annual mammogram. Because I am one of those girls with bumpy breast I have had mammograms every year since I was 29 years old, I am now 47. No family history of breast cancer. I have had two previous benign biopsies from suspicious areas. The blessing of having all of those previous mammograms is the radiologists had them to compare to what led to early detection for me. I consider myself the success story poster girl for early detection.
When he asked me into his office, he had the past several years of mammograms up on the screen, with an area circled on each. I could see a tiny tiny tiny speck several years ago that was now, just tiny. He called my Doctor while I was with him.
My surgeon reassured me that she felt it would be benign as in the past, but we needed to have a look. So I had a punch biopsy- ouch!
The call came actual first from my husband who is never home during the day, but was this day and he got the call. I was on the road making deliveries. He called me and said the doctor was going to be calling me on my cell phone in a couple of minutes, to find a place to pull over to be able to talk to her. He then gave the overview, it was positive, however very early.
I sat in the Towne Bank parking lot and waited. She called and explained the results and the suggested plan. All I heard was: carcinoma… My previous career was office manager at a veterinary hospital for 18 years, the dangerous part of having a little knowledge is well having a little knowledge. I thought carcinoma, wasn't that the kiss of death? Thankfully it wasn't.
I had a lumpectomy in Nov 2006, followed with radiation treatments and I will take Tamoxifen for 5 years. Had no chemo.
What became apparent to me during my treatments is just how many women don't know about breast cancer and aren't aware of the need for annual mammograms and month breast exams.
When going for daily radiation treatments and you are sitting in the little room in the "dressing gown" waiting your turn to be zapped, you meet lots of girls going thru the same as you. Some of the stories you hear make your heart literally break in half. Some of them were in advanced stages when detected because the lack of early detection and intervention.
Something else that you hear when people learn that you are going thru breast cancer treatments is "I need to schedule my mammogram, I haven't gone for a couple of years, I hate going, it always hurts when they squeeze my breast". I am sorry, but grow up people! I have very tender bumpy breasts and I just do it. 10 seconds of holding my breath while I have my breasts smashed flat seems the lesser of two evils. Speaking as someone who has only had her breast cut on, not cut off. Brutal but a reality. I find taking a Tylenol or Advil before I go helps. Do it annually for yourself and your family.
During my treatment and recover we didn't openly share what I was going thru because well, it is just plain bad for business, I'm sorry to say. I am a small business owner and when folks hear of an illness or tragedy in your family they tend to think, "they have their hands full, let's not bother them" when in fact you need their business even more during that time. I am so fortunate to have my sister Suzanne that just took over my duties along with her own and business ran as usual as far as anybody knew.
My experience has opened my eyes to the really need for public education. As a retailer I am learning that you can never advertise enough and the same is true for spreading the word about early detection of breast cancer. Although to some of us it seems as thou, how could someone not know? There are plenty out there that do not know.
While there is still one woman out there that isn't aware of what she should do, there is a need for awareness campaigns and it starts with each one of us. Awareness can be a pink ribbon magnet on your car, sharing your story, joining a Relay for Life Team or growing a pink garden! (Checkout our "Growing for the Cure" Seed Collection http://www.tgwshop.com/servlet/the-835/For-the-Cure-Breast/Detail )
Schedule your Mammogram!
Links of interest:
American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org/docroot/home/index.asp
Relay for Life http://www.relayforlife.org/relay/